Tips for improving your law firm's intake proces

First Class Intake Procedures Lead to Higher Conversion Rates, High Value Cases

How to get the modern client’s attention and hold your team accountable

We know that the journey of today’s client—your prospective legal client—is anything but a straight path. Technology allows consumers to engage with legal brands at many touchpoints across diverse devices and platforms. In this increasingly variable environment you never know when your law firm could get a new lead or sign a new case. Occasionally the traditional case-acquisition model works: A viewer sees your TV commercial, for example, checks out the reputation of your firm and attorneys on the Web and calls your phone number to learn more or seek legal advice.

However that previously linear path is increasingly unpredictable, and consumers are in charge of when, where and how they interact with brands and make decisions. Today’s legal client might see a Facebook comment about your law firm, call a friend for a referral and start the engagement process through your intake center—with very little prior knowledge of what type of law your firm focuses on or what cases your attorneys actually handle. Modern legal advertising strategies require that lawyers are prepared to address consumers’ needs at every possible touchpoint.

One of the biggest mistakes in law firm marketing is focusing a majority of spend too far upfront in the process while neglecting the backend of the sales stream. Firms get very motivated around a new creative advertising campaign, for example, but lose focus around what happens when calls or Internet leads actually begin to come in from their advertising efforts. If you’ve done your job properly by setting up a multifaceted advertising strategy to hit customers at each touchpoint along their self-directed journey, the most significant oversight may be forgetting to have an effective intake program in place to seal the deal.

You’ve spent the time and money to build a legal advertising campaign, and you’ve made every effort to “touch” prospective clients on every screen and platform they typically engage with during a day. Do not overlook the critical importance of intake to convert a lead into a paying case. In fact, there’s a great opportunity in intake, because most firms are not currently focusing energy here. If your office prioritizes strengthening intake strategy you will quickly surpass the competition, without spending more money on more advertising!

For example, if an average net attorney fee is $10,000, converting just 10 new cases a year equals $100,000; 100 new cases could bring in a million dollars. Yes, one million net dollars – without spending more on your advertising. Treat intake like other aspects of your advertising campaign: By simply fine-tuning a methodology that most firms don’t you could be winning more cases. The ROI on tweaking your intake process to convert cases is extraordinary when compared to investing those dollars in additional upfront advertising avenues.

So where do you begin?


Creating an intake agenda for 2016

Law firms cannot begin to build an effective action plan without having some numbers to act on. It’s helpful to conduct an internal audit of your current intake process to develop a baseline for change. Start by asking your attorneys and intake specialists a few directive questions:


  • What is your firm’s conversion percentage? You MUST know and understand this. Go back three years, month by month. How have things shifted? Are there times of year that are more productive than others?
  • Record ALL intake calls. What are you communicating? Have your attorneys listened to the intake professionals representing their firm? Are your intake specialists listening to their own calls to see what they can do better? Perhaps you have the wrong person on the phone who conveys the wrong message simply by the tone of his or her voice. Maybe the talking points you’ve created for your intake professionals are not truly representative of your brand. When was the last time you reviewed your script?
  • What software are you currently using? Do you have tracking tools in place? Do you have adequate technology and practices to track things like cost per lead and average time to signing?
  • What is your intake culture? Do you empower your professionals with an open-door policy, standards and call protocol, and regular meetings and monitoring? It’s possible that your attorneys are not involved enough in the process—or are perhaps intervening in ways that actually devalue your intake people.


Often the reasons law firms are not signing more cases is actually buried in some of their intake processes rather than in mistakes in their global advertising strategy. Remember, increasing your bottom line could be a matter of tweaking these procedures or better tracking and acting on data you’ve collected through the intake process.


Here are a few ways to begin to take action to elevate intake:


Record all of your intake calls and listen to them. Also make sure you listen to your afterhours message. Walk through the entire intake process, starting with the first phone call through follow-up communication. Try calling several different times over a month to gauge the consistency. Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • What tone are your intake representatives communicating?
  • How fast does an intake representative get back to you?
  • Were you put on gold? If so, for how long?
  • How would you rate your customer service?

Consider your experience objectively and then start fixing what you deem to be biggest issues.


Monitor your performance.

You cannot improve your intake performance unless you have tools in place to track calls, web leads and statistics around how you’re responding to prospective clients. What tools do you need to properly monitor your customer-service performance and improve response time (for both claimants and referrers)? Are your intake specialists spending time on long calls with claimants that your firm ultimately does not want to sign? Are you assigning too many cases to your intake specialists? Once you have tracking tools in place you can work on making your people and processes more effective, with the intent to covert more calls to cases.


Create a culture.

If people answering your phones and Internet inquires could be the link that converts a lead to a case, shouldn’t you treat them like a personal investment? It’s important to begin to think of intake more like a culture of customer service. Empowering your intake professionals will give them confidence, something you can hear in the tone of their delivery, as well as make them feel part of a bigger team dedicated to case acquisition. Show your intake staff that your attorneys appreciate them by creating a thoughtful and rewarding environment. Include intake staff members in frequent review meetings and maintain an open-door policy so people feel they can make suggestions for improvement. You can also support a healthy intake culture by developing consistent intake procedures and encouraging all communication specialists to follow that protocol.


Take it further.

Make sure the intake process isn’t the part of case acquisition that “drops the ball” along the sales channel. Intake is not just one phone call. It’s part of a larger communication process. In fact, several statistics that demonstrate exactly this: Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts; 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. Likewise, web leads followed up on within five minutes are nine times more likely to convert. To ensure that your law firm is beating the competition to the case, you must be faster, more thorough and more persistent. Elevate the entire intake system by setting in place rules for follow-up, along with leveraging leads for future cases.

If your law firm’s multipronged advertising is working, chances are your phone is already ringing. But, remember, that’s not where case acquisition ends—that’s where it starts. Begin to hone your intake strategy to make sure that your legal advertising pays off in more signed cases in 2016. Customers are on an increasingly complex decision-making path. It’s critical that when you have they’re attention, you keep it. Law firms can make or break a case by how they deliver on intake.

Want to convert more cases in 2016? Need more insight on how to improve your law firm’s intake procedures? Network Affiliates has been helping lawyers evolve their advertising, marketing and advertising strategies since 1981. Call (888) 461-1016 today!